In late 1971, it was announced that Winnipeg, Manitoba would be getting a professional hockey team in their city. Winnipeg hadn’t had this kind of news before, so it was an exciting time when their expansion team, the Jets, would make their debut for the 1972-73 season in the WHA. For seven seasons, the Jets played in the WHA before being absorbed by the NHL.
The early days of the Jets were met with success, as the team won three division titles before heading to the NHL and three Avco World Trophies. There were also some memorable players on the squad, some of which would become hockey legends. The NHL years were a bit turbulent, as the team struggled to compete, never winning a Stanley Cup or even reaching the finals.
Eventually, in 1996, the team moved operations to Phoenix to become the Coyotes, and it wasn’t until 2011 that Winnipeg landed another franchise when the Atlanta Thrashers moved north. Still, the first run that the Jets had in Winnipeg was quite memorable. Let’s take a look back at some of the most beloved players from their initial run before moving to Phoenix, and see what they’re up to today.
15 John Paddock
We start the list with one of the coaches from the original Jets, and that’s John Paddock. Paddock took over the head coaching position for the 1991-92 season at just 37 years old. Over the course of four seasons, Paddock’s teams were able to put together a winning record twice, but fell off fast and he finished at 106-138-37 as the head coach for the Jets, getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs twice in the process.
Paddock would bounce around as a coach for years, and found another head coaching gig for a brief period in the 2007-08 season with Ottawa. Despite a 36-22-6 record, Paddock was not retained, and hasn’t been a head coach in the NHL since. Now, Paddock is hanging around in Canada and is acting as the Head Coach and head of hockey operations for the Regina Pats of the WHL.
14 Joe Daley
For the first seven seasons that the Jets were in existence, they played in the WHA. In that whole span, Joe Daley was the guy that they called their top goaltender. In 1,002 career games with Winnipeg, Daley was able to put up a 3.37 goals against average and a .889 save percentage. Daley had played with Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Detroit before joining Winnipeg, and his overall career record outside of the Jets was 34-44-19.
Once the Jets played their final season in the WHA, Daley played his final season of professional hockey. Daley retired and started coaching junior hockey for a brief period. During the 1980s, Daley would head to Winnipeg where he started his own business called Joe Daley’s Sports and Framing.
13 Ulf Nilsson
In the WHA days of the Winnipeg Jets, nobody tallied more assists than Swedish forward Ulf Nilsson (Pictured Left). Nilsson put up 344 assists with the WHA franchise, and he was also third in career goals in the original Jets run. Nilsson had come up with the Jets in 1974, and stuck around for four seasons where he was named an All Star twice. Nilsson wouldn’t remain on the Jets when they headed to the NHL, however.
The year before the Jets changed league, Nilsson became a member of the New York Rangers. Nilsson suffered a freak accident on the ice that led to injury problems, and he would only spend 170 total games over four seasons with the Rangers where he scored 169 points. Nilsson was recently inducted into the Jets Hall of Fame, and the 67 year old has been enjoying a quiet retirement and has said in recent years that injuries hampered what could have been a greater career.
12 Anders Hedberg
Nilsson wasn’t the only player that moved from the Jets to the Rangers, as fellow Swede Anders Hedberg (Pictured Left) also made the jump the same season. Before heading to the Rangers, Hedberg was a big time scorer with Winnipeg, notching 458 points in just 286 games over the course of four seasons. Hedberg wouldn’t notch quite as many points in seven years of NHL play with the Rangers, but was still effective with 172 goals and 225 assists.
After he retired in 1985, Hedberg took a position with the New York Rangers as the assistant to the general manager. Then, in the 1990s, Hedberg joined the Maple Leafs front office as a scout before getting an assistant general manager role. Hedberg has since worked with the Senators in the player personnel department, but returned to the Rangers in 2007 as the professional scout for European hockey.
11 Fredrik Olausson
Not one of the WHA Jets, Fredrik Olausson joined the Winnipeg Jets as a fourth round pick in 1985. The next year, he would make his debut and spend more than seven seasons with the team. Along the way, Olausson would tally 86 goals and 249 assists from the defenseman position before heading to Edmonton. Olausson would also spend time with Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Olausson wouldn’t retire until after the 2002-03 with a Stanley Cup title under his belt, and is currently sitting seventh all-time in Jets history with 249 assists. Olausson went to Europe to play for a bit, but had to retire altogether due to health concerns. After recovering, Hedberg became a coach in Sweden with HV71. Olausson, now 50 years old, is still in his native Sweden.
10 Daniel Berthiaume
The Winnipeg Jets made Daniel Berthiaume their third round pick in the 1985 NHL Draft, and he would spend just one year getting ready before making his debut. Berthiaume spent just over three seasons in Winnipeg with a total of 120 games played. In that time, he finished with a record of 50-45-13, posting a 3.63 goals against average and .876 save percentage.
Berthiaume joined Minnesota during the 1989-90 season, and he also spent time with Los Angeles, Ottawa and Boston. Berthiaume was finished with the NHL in 1994 before even turning 30 years old as his skills diminished quickly. Berthiaume would continue to play hockey for another decade in other leagues, though, and finally finished in 2005. Berthiaume then became a coach, heading to the United Hockey League and then college before starting up his own fishing business in Virginia.
9 Laurie Boschman
Until more talented members of the Arizona Coyotes come along, Laurie Boschman finds himself in the top 10 of many major statistical categories in Jets history. Boschman ranks ninth in goals with 152, 10th in assists with 227 and eighth in points with 379. Boschman spent just over eight seasons with the Jets, though he would finish his career with two seasons in New Jersey and one in Ottawa.
Boschman played in the BHL in the mid 1990s, but decided to call it a career in 1995. After retiring, he would move to Ottawa and combine his love of hockey with his faith, becoming one of the many former NHL players to join the Hockey Ministries International group. Boschman works with the organization while living in Stittsville, Ontario.
8 Paul MacLean
In the combined run of the first Jets run in the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes, Paul MacLean ranks fifth in the franchise with 248 goals, and sits at sixth in both assists and points. MacLean had come over to Winnipeg from St. Louis, and spent seven seasons with the Jets before heading to Detroit for one season and then back to St. Louis for his final two seasons. He would play his final game in the 1992-93 season.
MacLean went into coaching after retirement, first with the IHL before making his way to the NHL as an assist with Anaheim and then Detroit under Mike Babcock. MacLean got his first NHL head coaching gig with Ottawa in 2011, but was fired in 2014. MacLean headed back to Anaheim as an assistant with Bruce Boudreau, but was let go in June 2017 after his contract wasn’t renewed.
7 Randy Carlyle
Coming into the NHL back in 1976, Randy Carlyle spent his first two seasons with the Maple Leafs before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins for more than five years. During the 1983-84 season, Carlyle moved over to WInnipeg and remained there for the rest of his career that lasted up to the 1992-93 season. Carlyle would put up 80 goals and 226 assists as a member of the Jets in 564 games played.
Like MacLean, Carlyle would go into coaching after retiring. He landed his first head coaching gig with Anaheim in 2005, and won a Stanley Cup in his seven seasons with the team. Carlyle then joined the Maple Leafs as head coach, but didn’t find much success. Carlyle returned to Anaheim in 2016-17, and in his first season of his second stint with the team, he would post an impressive 46-23-13 record.
6 Morris Lukowich
Morris Lukowich is not only in the top 10 in goals for the franchise history of the Jets in their WHL run, but also in their run that has extended into Arizona. Lukowich started with the Houston Aeros for two seasons, and then joined the Jets in 1978 where he posted 65 goals in his first season. Lukowich spent five more seasons in Winnipeg before heading to Boston and then Los Angeles.
Lukowich tallied 168 goals and 177 assists as a member of the Jets, but struggled away from the franchise and retired at 30 years old after playing a season in Italy. Lukowich even tried his hand in roller hockey during the 1990s, but eventually settled down in Calgary and started a hockey camp that still operates today.
5 Bob Essensa
In the history of the Jets/Coyotes, nobody has given up more goals than Bob Essensa. While that might not sound like a good thing, Essensa also faced the second most shots, put up 15 shutouts and had a solid save percentage at .894 with the Jets. Essensa would leave Winnipeg during the 1993-94 season, heading to Detroit to finish out the year.
Essensa would be replaced and didn’t play in the NHL for a few years, but came back to play with Edmonton and even joined the new Jets in Phoenix. Essensa wrapped up in 2002 with Buffalo, becoming the goaltending coach with the Boston Bruins after retiring. More than a decade later, Essensa is still in the same position and even suited up for a game in 2015 as the emergency goalie.
4 Doug Smail
Not many people played in more games wearing a Winnipeg Jets uniform than Doug Smail, who spent 691 games in Winnipeg. Smail’s career with the Jets spanned from 1980 to the 1990-91 season before he headed to Minnesota. He then spent one season in Quebec, and then another in Ottawa before finishing in 1993. Smail tallied 189 goals and 208 assists in 691 games with Winnipeg, and 459 points overall in his career.
Smail would play in Europe for a few years in the 1990s, and came back to the United States after calling it quits for good. Now, Smail is living in Colorado and coaches youth hockey where he has drawn a lot of praise for his work. He’s currently the U18 Head Coach for the Rocky Mountain Roughriders AAA Hockey team.
3 Dale Hawerchuk
One of just two players to have suited up with the Jets more than Smail was Dale Hawerchuk, who joined the franchise at just 18 years old in 1981. Hawerchuk was a star for the franchise, frequently scoring more than 100 points in a season. All in all, Hawerchuk would spend 713 games with the Jets and tallied 929 points. He then finished his career with 66 games in St. Louis and then with Philadelphia in 1995-96 and 96-97.
Hawerchuk headed into ownership after taking a few years to himself and eventually became a coach, being named head coach in 2010 with the Barrie Colts of the UHL. The Colts have found success ever since Hawerchuk has become their coach, making it to the finals in 2012-13 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015-16.
2 Thomas Steen
The player that stands above Smail and Hawerchuk in terms of games played for the Jets is Swedish standby Thomas Steen. Steen entered the NHL with Winnipeg in 1981, and never played for another team over the course of 14 seasons. Steen played in a total of 950 games with the Jets, scoring 264 goals and 553 assists. Though he was never an All Star or Stanley Cup winner, Steen has his number retired by the franchise.
Steen would play for a few seasons in Europe during the late 1990s, and became a scout for the Minnesota Wild. Steen would also work for the American Hockey League and even tried his hand in politics, but lost in 2008 to Jim Maloway. Steen has stuck around in Winnipeg, however, and has been active in the business world.
1 Bobby Hull
One of the greatest hockey players to ever live, Bobby Hull was already 34 years old when he joined the Winnipeg Jets for the team’s first ever season in 1972-73. Not only was Hull the star player, but he was also the head coach of the team for his first three seasons before resigning in the 1974-75 season, but still remained as a player. Hull’s playing career with Winnipeg spanned from 1972 to 1979 before he headed to the Hartford Whalers for nine games, and retired in 1980.
Since Hull was able to make so much money while playing and is part of a successful hockey family, he has been able to enjoy retirement without having to work too many odd jobs. Hull has been all around the world endorsing the game, and has been part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. With the team, Hull has been a franchise ambassador. Along with Chicago, the Jets have also retired Hull’s number nine jersey.